Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Everyone


Easter Lilly

This is the morning the true mystery of Jesus began.  It is the foundation of our faith – the expectation that we all believe and trust that He is risen.  Think how much easier it would have been if He would have simply reappeared before Pilate.  How different would the following 2,000 years have been?

Yet, that is not what we were asked to accept.  He appeared sparsely, to friends and followers to assure us all that He had, indeed, conquered death, completed his role in our salvation and He asked that we follow.  He was not to be a leader in the earthly sense – but a doorway, a path, a means to our salvation.  Something simply beyond our understanding.  Something that could only be accepted through our faith.

A lot to ponder for a simple human.

Enjoy your day, your family and friends, your relationship with Him.  Please take just a few moments in silent reflection of the gift this last 40 days has represented . . . . a mystery that saves our souls . . . .

Have a great day everyone!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Training – Are You Certified?????


Certified:   : having earned certification

                     : genuine, authentic

I had a bit of an exchange between a new student, the NRA certification folks and myself regarding websites and NRA logos on an instructor’s websites. The “nut” of the clarification was that an instructor can only use the NRA logos on courses that are NRA Certified courses. These are courses that they train instructors to teach, that they provide instructional literature for, and that they ultimately provide a “NRA Certificate” for. For me, my wallet certificate looks like this:


As you look around the Internet universe for instructors and courses, it may be worthwhile to discover something about the instructor, the courses they are teaching and whether they – and their courses – are “certified.

Just what does an “Instructor Certification” mean actually? It is proof that an entity that provides a course of study for a set of knowledge or skillset has trained, evaluated and determined that an individual who was selected for “Instructor Training” has met all of their requirements to be able to teach that specific knowledge base or skill set to “new students”. Let’s take me for example. My wallet cert. card for the NRA is shown above. It shows that I have received a certification from the NRA to teach their Basic Pistol, PPITH, PPOTH, Basic Rifle, Basic Shotgun and RSO courses. Additionally, I have also received their Training Counselor certification to teach new Instructor Candidates to teach each of these specific NRA Certifications. It is your assurance that someone has taught and evaluated me before presenting me with a teaching credential.

For you, as a prospective Basic Course student or Instructor Candidate – you have a level of assurance that I have met specific criteria of the NRA to be able to consistently teach those skill sets. And, regardless of your location in the US – you can be assured that instructors in your area have met the same criteria.

Now, dealing specifically with the NRA, there seems to be a continual about their methods, their politics, their leadership, their methods . . . . the list is endless. However, often ignored is the fact they have been conducting firearms training since 1871. This is a tremendous depth of knowledge that should be taken advantage of. As prospective students – regardless of your feelings about the NRA – take advantage of this knowledge. The same goes for those of you considering becoming instructors. Take advantage of the years of course development, years of experience and tens of thousands who have gone before – it will be to your benefit.

There are other bodies that can provide consistency through certification as well. The National Shooting Sports offer a wide range of shooting and shooting safety information and video training. 4-H also has an informal shooting training and shooting safety course that can go a long way toward training instructors for their programs as well.

When you begin to evaluate “certified courses” – I would suggest you look at their history. Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Suarez International, I.C.E. – to name a few have developed a solid reputation for coursework. Again, there are always disagreements between folks about the “value” of specific instructors, specific companies, and specific courses. However, reputable courses will always provide a detailed syllabus of what is going to be taught, what gear is required, the length of the course and the expectations of the instructors. I would urge you to migrate towards this type of course work.

Many courses also provide for individual course review by students as well – take advantage of that! If you read a review that talks about poor safety, shoddy course material, un-focused instructors . . . . you may well want to evaluate where you want to spend your money.

One other consideration is the instructor who has developed his own course work, a couple thoughts on that. Make sure the instructor is clear on what material is his/hers and what belongs to others. For example, as an NRA instructor I CAN NOT teach my Defensive Pistols courses under the banner of the NRA. It is NOT their material, they have NOT approved it. That said, I feel the Defensive Pistol course I have developed has value, it has been review by students that have taken it and found value in it – I intend to continue teaching it and enhancing it over the years.

So, are the instructors you are taking your courses from “Certified”? Are the courses they are teaching “Certified”? It’s worth your time to look, to evaluate them and to continue to grow and push yourself as a shooter.

Are you, as an Instructor, “Certified”??

Why yes, yes I am.

Don’t be afraid to ask, don’t be afraid to investigate, don’t be afraid to question . . . . it’s your money, you deserve the best!!

Survival - Altoids Tin Pocket Survival Kit


“Survival Kit” . . . . what the heck is that?? Survive what?? Hurricane? Fire? Flood? Car Accident?? When a person uses the words “Survival Kit” in the context of having basic tools at hand to enable them to live an additional minute, hour, day, week . . . or more, it should give a person pause . . . . If you find yourself in an actual “survival” moment, you are having a bad day – to say the very least.

And still, working on such kits, thinking through various scenarios, hashing out “options” or “plans” has a tremendous amount of value. In the Wilderness Survival courses I have taught, my stock line is “you have all the time you need NOW to plan for your survival”. And, indeed, you do. If you are reading this post I suspect you are fairly comfortable, your life is not in danger, you have the next few hours to actually think about YOUR survival kit and what you would need in it. Use the time.

So, let’s talk about a typical element of a survival system – a Pocket Survival Kit.

Let me be clear up front – I LOVE Altoids Tins. Probably one of the best containers for a geek like me. I have had friends build everything from HF transceivers to small stoves out of them. I have fire starter tins, first aid kit tins, fishing kit tins – to name but a few. For this post, I am talking about my ”Altoids Tin Pocket Survival Kit”.

About a year ago I did a post entitled “Survival – The Rules of 3” to describe the incremental points in a survival event - Three minutes without air, Three hours without shelter, Three days without water and Three weeks without food. A Pocket Survival Kit has little or no use in the first three minutes where you are simply searching for your next breath. You will either live or die – that simple. However, once that event is over and you have entered the Three Hours to find shelter . . . . then a Pocket Survival Kit can begin to make a difference between your life and your death. A couple further caveats . . . .

  • Let’s assume a wilderness environment . . . .
  • Let’s assume you are a significant distance from civilization – say a day’s hard travel . . .
  • Let’s assume a solo trip – backpack, bike ride, canoe paddle . . . .
  • You are your support system, you are your own self rescue . . . .
  • You have your EDC gear – knife, flashlight, Para cord Bracelet, compass and whistle around your neck (a MUST during wilderness travel), 3-ways to start a fire – and let’s leave your firearm out of it.
  • For whatever reason – a fall, you rolled your canoe, you went SEVERLY off course and are lost, storm, fire – you have entered the “Rules of 3” between the 3-hour stage and the 3-week stage. The event is significant and you will either think your way through this or you will become a statistic.


Most survival events begin with panic – remember your mind is both your best survival tool and your worst enemy. I teach the word STOP in my course:

Stop: find a comfy spot, sit down, gather your wits and calm your mind.

Think: your time spent in the wilderness (or on the water, or in the city, or on the road) has given you a tremendous amount of knowledge. Calm your mind so you have access to this knowledge.

Observe: take stock – where are you, what kind of shape are you in, how’s your gear, how’s your food, what’s your probability of rescue, do people know where you are . . . . it’s a long list. It’s a list you should play over in your mind PRIOR to your trip as you review maps and your plans. Remember – you have all the time you need . . . . NOW.

Plan: Once you have calmed yourself, taken stock of your situation – you have time to plan.

An actual dependence on your survival kit would imply that you have had a catastrophic failure of some type and lost most of your gear due to a storm, fire, rolled a canoe and your gear is now at the bottom of the lake. You are left with what’s in your pocket. This is the juncture where a Pocket Survival Kit can be of real use.

Here’s mine – and what I have put in it.


It is, indeed, an Altoids Tin – Cinnamon to be exact. I will typically place this tin inside a quart freezer bag and then in a cargo pocket or a small waist pack. The freezer bag helps keep it dry and can double as a canteen if needed. Inside this little guy, you will find this:


  • Striker: backup surface for matches
  • Lighter: you just can’t have too many of these
  • Storm Match: start virtually anywhere
  • Paraffin Cotton: to start stubborn fires
  • Strike Anywhere Matches: can’t have too many
  • Candle: cheap fire starters
  • Razor Blade: think scalpel if you need one. It’s is a sheath made of a milk carton side
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Tylenol
  • Band-Aids
  • Pencil and Paper: for notes on wound treatment, where you are going, last thoughts if it really is not your day . . . .
  • Darning Needle and Dental Floss: good suturing material. Remember, you can sterilize the needle with flame as well as the alcohol swabs
  • Safety Pins
  • Fishing Kit: Sinkers, Hooks, Steel Leader and 30-lb test line on a sewing bobbin.
  • Cotton Thread: again on a sewing bobbin
  • Fresnel Lense: quick fire starting in a sunny environment

These are VERY BASIC items. Yet, they will give you the ability to start fire, close gaping wounds, either catch fish or snare small animals, and gather water. They are meant to provide you some mental comfort and give you a bit of a safety net. Still . . . .

They are NO GUARANTEE that your family and friends will not weep over you. Practice your survival skills. I am fond of the “one gallon” test . . . . take everything you think you need to survive for a weekend and put it in a 1-gallon freezer bag. (yep, you will need to do some “sorting”). Then go campin’. And stick it out, regardless of weather. Make notes, do an AAR, modify your gear . . . .

As with a defensive pistol skill – practice make for a better shooter . . . .

. . . . and practicing your survival skills enhances your chances for making it home.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review - Basic Pistol Instructor Class 3-22,23 2013


I view the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor as THE foundational course for the NRA training program. I suppose you could start with any other Basic courses if you want to become a NRA Instructor – but the pistol course just feels like a great starting point to me.

I had a great bunch of instructor candidates this past weekend – police officers looking to offer courses in their communities or for Scouts, a couple of gun shop owners looking to offer their customers a training option, and outdoorswoman looking to help other ladies with their introduction to shooting, a retired guy looking to put his shooting skills to work and a blogger friend that traveled all the way from Virginia so he would be a better firearms instructor for Scouts in his area. A great group that shared a passion for guns and a desire to help expand the community of trained shooters.

As I have described before in other NRA Instructor Courses reviews, the first day is pretty much tied up with the Basic Instructor Training. This essentially teaches instructor candidates how to teach an NRA course. It is primarily a lecture day but does provide quite a bit of opportunity for candidates to stand and deliver short segments of lecture to get their feet wet preparing and delivering a lesson.

The process teaches everything from preparing lessons, using teaching aids, building teaching aids, pricing a course, advertising the course, finding a place that will host it . . . . it’s complicated as they say . . . .

The other part of the day is spent with pre-course qualifications. Each candidate must shoot two courses of fire – 10 rounds each – and put each round within an 8 inch circle from 50 feet. Honestly it’s not difficult, but adrenalin, nerves, ALL other candidates looking over your shoulder . . . . can make it a bit more challenging. Thrown in a set of rear sights that have been moved a significant amount during a cross country flight and it can get even dicier. But, all were experienced shooters and with a bit of polish all groups tightened quickly and the range time was all too short!

Next pre-qualification were various gun handling exercises:

  • Loading and Unloading a Single Action Revolver
  • Loading and Unloading a Double Action Revolver
  • Loading and Unloading a Semi-Automatic Pistol
  • Clearing a misfire
  • Clearing a double feed

Again – no troubles, day one ended with everyone fairly tuckered out and I suspect wondering what the heck they had gotten themselves into!

Day two candidates essentially teach all elements of the NRA Basic Pistol Course. This covers everything from types of handguns, components of ammunition, teaching the basics of stance – grip - sight picture - sight alignment – trigger press, to shooting first shots and cleaning the different types of handguns. It’s a busy day. Each element is team-taught by the candidates. This gives them experience working with a team, assigning elements and then delivering them.

The second day ended with everyone having a smile on their face even if their eyes were slightly glazed over!

Congrats to Tyson, Randy, Jim, Deb, Adam, Scott, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Danny and Joe – great job!! And, we have 12 more NRA Basic Pistol Instructors to insure new shooters enjoy their new sport safely and get the most out of their handguns!


UPDATE:  Here are the class photos – pretty good lookin’ bunch!!

NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course March 22,23 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Meetings - Training with OldNFO . . . .


It had been awhile since OldNFO and I had spoken . . . the phone rings . . . .

OldNFO: So when’s your next Basic Pistol Instructor Training??

Me: End of March - why??

OldNFO: Why don’t you save me a spot, looks like I’ll have some time free – I need a break!!

Me: Remember . . . . I live in Iowa??? You’re just about far East as you can get!! Iowa . . . . East Coast????? Really??

OldNFO: (a bit of a chuckle comes over the cell connection) “Hell, I have more “miles” saved up than I know what to do with . . . . just sign me up!”

And so this weekend arrived and I got to meet, know and enjoy the company of a fellow retired vet who has tromped over some of the same territory I had in years gone by. I gotta say, I had a great time!

This past Friday and Saturday I conducted the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course – more on that in a review post in the next day or so. What I was truly looking forward to was meeting this fella I had chatted with on the phone after he first called me when I went off on a riff about how all pilots sounded like Chuck Yeager . . . . and he does, indeed, sound like Chuck Yeager! Smile

I always wonder what the person behind a blog is “really like” – does the blog truly represent their personality or are they simply an internet fabrication? All I can say is “what you read is who OldNFO is”! Talkative, funny, interesting, coolest job ever for a geek like me, broad range of knowledge of firearms, passionate about his shooting skills . . . . just the whole package! Did I mention talkative??? There’s always a risk of putting two vets together and being drowned by a torrent of “I remember the time” stories - we certainly did not disappoint those around us!!

But, murphy being who he is, he was handed a bit of a curve ball. Part of the pre-course qualification was to shoot two qual targets from 50 feet putting 10 rounds within an 8” circle. A simple task for any true shooter – and a must if you want to participate in an NRA Basic Pistol instructor course. Just to make sure there were no surprises – he brought his one handgun . . . . . remember murphy??? First 10-round magazine and he had two hits on the far left edge of the target . . .WTF????? Same result with the second magazine . . . . he’s startin’ to feel a little uncomfortable about now.

Then a quick glance over the weapon showed that the rear sight has slid an 1/8 inch or more within its groove . . . . . not good. But, finally understanding what the problem was, OldNFO simply applied a little “Kentucky Windage” and his rounds easily fell within spec. He proceeded to feel bad about his initial efforts – but the ease with which he made his adjustment showed that there clearly was a “shooter” at the line!

Outside of class over meals in a great local Mexican and Chinese restaurant and a great steak this evening we chatted like old friends sharing stories of time spent in places that tested our metal as well as friends, children, grandchildren, hobbies, our futures and what he thought of the way I taught this weekend’s course (he was more than kind with his comments).

We are all made richer by those around us and the friends we make. Tonight, I am surely richer for our meeting sir . . . . it has been great getting to know you. I look forward to the next time we have the opportunity to get together!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Training - Details, details, details . . . . .


“The devil is in the details . . .”

Detail:     a part of a whole: as

       a small and subordinate part

                 a part considered or requiring to be considered

                separately from the whole

Personal defense, as with many things, is made up of a broad range of bits and pieces – “details”. These details must be attended to each and every day, each and every hour to insure you have the best possible chance of survival. (sounds dramatic, I know). Perhaps a conversation – names changed to protect the innocent:

Bonnie: “You train people how to shoot guns???” Asked while I was nose deep in one of her co-workers computers.

Me: “Yep, been doing that for a few years or more now.” Said while gently cursing the driver for the printer I was trying to attach.

Bonnie: “I got my carry permit a while ago. I have an LC9.”

Well, this perked my ears a bit since I have a LC9 as well. And I was surprised/curious at her having a permit.

Bonnie: “I have it to protect myself from my ex . . . he’s out of jail again. I finally got a permanent restraining order, but he still scares me.”

We had chatted about her ex in the past but she had never expressed such fear before. Given that we were in her work place I was curious how she was carrying.

Me: Sounds like a good idea to carry – how do you carry here at work?”

Bonnie: Oh, I don’t, it’s at home. But I know right where it is. They’ve suggested I carry here, but I haven’t yet.”

The conversation continues about types of on-body carry, her gun was at home where it would do her no good in the parking lot, and assorted other fears/concerns/questions she had followed.

Details . . . . details . . . . details . . . .

Such as being in fear for one’s life, acquiring a carry permit . . . . and then leaving your defensive weapon at home because of the “hassle” of carrying it . . . .

So let’s chat a bit about the range of details involved is having a weapon for personal defense and your actions throughout your day that may (or may not) help to keep you safe.

Your Weapon

One of the fundamental details of your defensive weapon is its actual selection. What handgun – I am focusing on handguns, not knives, keys, pepper spray, or other secondary weapons – are you going to choose? This “detail” is filled with other “details” – size, fit, ease of concealment, capacity, caliber, “stopping power”. And almost immediately many folks will let this overwhelm them ‘ “there are so many choices, I just don’t know how to pick one” – that they stop looking and buy the first handgun that is placed in their hand.

Take your time. Talk to other people who carry to see what they like. Go to a range and try a variety of handguns. There are a couple of criteria that MUST be met for your handgun to be an effective personal defensive weapon.

You must be able to shoot it accurately. You must be able to safely and effectively handle it and clear it if it malfunctions. You must be able to conceal it comfortably. I believe it should be at least a .38 special or larger center fire handgun. You MUST CARRY IT EVERY DAY!!! ALL DAY!!


This is another “detail” many folks kind of shrug off. Many, once they get their permit, simply let the training evolve into a range trip or two each year to “put a few rounds down range”. Again, the “details” are lost . . .

Details such as marksmanship, draw from concealment, threat recognition, speed reloads, the uses of a tactical reload, clearing malfunctions, engaging a threat from 9 feet to 50 feet, movement, cover, concealment . . . . details, details, details.

Again, many folks let the volume of “details” overwhelm them and simply opt for what’s easy . . . . a couple of trips to the range a year to “put some rounds down range”. Don’t be “that guy/gal”. You have purchased a weapon to defend yourself – please – learn how to use it and become (and remain) proficient with its use.

Daily “Load Out”

Every morning, after I finish dressing, I stand in front of my dresser a put my wallet, flashlight, defensive knife, “Juice”, watch, phone, spare magazine and Glock17 “on”. Gun “geeks” call this their EDC – Every Day Carry. And, for me, that it is – EVERY day carry.

This is another one of those “details” that people become overwhelmed by – and it is an accumulation of the two above. If you have a weapon that is so big, so uncomfortable that you can’t easily carry, conceal and use it . . . . you won’t carry it. If you have a weapon that you are unfamiliar with, are not confident with . . . . you won’t carry it.

Entering/Exiting Vehicles . . . . and moving about your day

Going back to Bonnie and her fear of her ex. Getting into and out of your vehicle are two of your most vulnerable times of the day. You are focused on keys, doors, where the heck did you park your car . . . . rather than your surroundings. This plays into Jeff Coopers “color code” or the NRA’s “levels of awareness” and is perhaps one of the more difficult “details” of your personal protection.

You must simply be “aware” of what’s going on around you. Any familiar faces around that you really don’t want to see? Is someone trying to invade your “personal space”. Does something “feel off”? Are you parking/walking with your safety in mind? “Details”.

And, again, the implementation of the “color codes” or “levels of awareness” can feel like such a hassle that many folks simply don’t . . . . don’t pay attention to their surroundings, don’t pay attention to people around them, don’t pay attention to where they park or where they walk. And, for the vast majority of people – that’s just fine. But for some . . . . they end up dead.

“The devil is in the details” . . . . the threats to your life, your ability to defend yourself, your safety and the safety of your family and friends, your ability to return home at the end of the day for a kiss with your spouse and a snuggle with your kids . . . . depends on your willingness to pay attention to the “details” of your personal protection . . .

Because if you depend on luck . . . . .

. . . . it may well run out just when you need it most.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Reflections – We all have our cross to bear . . . .


It’s interesting to watch over my own shoulder sometimes and just see how things affect me . . . . Tonight was just such an occasion.

Paul: Bill? Bill – I need a reader for Friday night.

Me: Sure, what do you need Paul . . .

Paul: I need you to be reader number 2 for Stations Friday – can you do that?

Me: Sure, more than happy to . . . .

There is a Catholic tradition during Lent that on Friday evenings a parish holds a simple communion service and then conducts “Stations of the Cross”. The tradition began in the early centuries of the church. Catholics were expected to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands to follow the “Via Dolorosa” – The “Way of Suffering”. It is an actual, physical path through Jerusalem that begins where Christ was condemned to death and ends at his tomb.


However, the reality of the times was that this was a dangerous journey. As an alternative – fourteen individual “stations” were constructed along the walls of the nave of the church – each representing a physical location along the “Via Dolorosa”.

As this tradition has evolved, in our parish there is a procession consisting of a cross bearer and two assistants. They begin at the First Station: Jesus is condemned to death. The first reader reads a passage detailing the events of His life at that point. The second reader reads a passage on how we, as individuals, live our life in today’s world with of family, friends and those around us.

The tradition, in our parish, is fairly simple in readings and prayers. Other parishes are much more ornate. This link provides a fairly simply set of readings that are similar to our parish’s ceremony.

His “cross to bear” was, of course, a true cross. Whether it was an actual, physical cross or simply a cross member – there is little doubt of its weight and its effect on his body. Much as our “crosses” can wear and weigh us down. At different points throughout this journey he was overcome, given assistance, was greeted by his mother, stripped, killed and buried.

  • Station One: Jesus is condemned to death
  • Station Two: Jesus takes up his cross
  • Station Three: Jesus falls for the first time
  • Station Four: Jesus meets Mary
  • Station Five: Simon is forced to carry Jesus’s cross
  • Station Six: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  • Station Seven: Jesus falls the second time
  • Station Eight: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  • Station Nine: Jesus falls a third time
  • Station Ten: Jesus is stripped of his clothing
  • Station Eleven: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  • Station Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross
  • Station Thirteen: Jesus is taken off the cross
  • Station Fourteen: Jesus is laid in the tomb

A tortuous path that followed a life of love, confrontation, truth telling, expectation, duty, recruitment . . . . that set before man a path . . . . a path to salvation and redemption . . . a path to the life that follows . . . .

It is at Station Fourteen that true faith begins – at least for me. And so I sat through the beginning communion service looking at my church family and I watch over my shoulder. I stood at a lectern and read my little piece of tonight’s procession – and looked over my shoulder . . . . at what this faith has meant in my life. How it has helped me and the “crosses” that I have encountered along the way. I am a better man for it. I am a better husband, a better father, a better friend . . . .

We all have crosses . . .

We have been given one example on how to bear those crosses . . . .

All we are asked to do is to truly do our best, love those around us and realize that He truly loves us well beyond our understanding . . . .

It is truly a mystery to me . . . .

Monday, March 11, 2013

Range Trip - LaserLyte 3/11/2013


Monday is starting out a bit slow.  I had/have some time while a customer’s notebook tries to paste itself back together so I spent 15 minutes on the LaserLyte Range this morning.  For those new to the blog, I “shoot” 5 Stages, 5 rounds per stage.  I record the “hits” on my reduced size IDPA targets in a little notebook along with the time to the hit.  I use the IPSC Shot Timer I just reviewed to time my shots.  Then I summarize them and add them to my Range Log.  It’s not perfect but it keeps me working on my draw from concealment with my carry weapon and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg in ammunition or a great deal of time away from work.  I believe it’s a solid part of my whole training program.

Today was a GOOD day.  100% of all hits were “on paper”.  Usually when I am pushing a bit a couple slide high-right, but not today.  And, 3 of the 5 stages were sub-1.5 second.  I liked that a lot!  My final stage was 100% on paper, 1.47 seconds average for 5 draws and ALL within the “O-Ring”.  Nice way to end the session.  My final average, for all 25 draws was 1.53 seconds, I’m happy with that.

I am considering a SIRT Pistol for follow on shots since a LaserLyte round required racking the slide after each shot.  Not sold on the idea of it, but since they now offer a replacement carrier bolt for my AR as well, there might be some interesting things that could be done switching between the AR and the G17.  Will let you know if I move forward with that.

All that said – keep training.  Dry fire, range time, reviewing training videos, taking training classes . . . . if you ARE NOT USING YOUR SHOOTING SKILLLS . . . . they are diminishing!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review - IPSC Shot Timer


On a number of occasions I’ve mentioned the timer I use for my dry-fire practice. It’s a free Android app named the “IPSC Shot Timer”. The following is a link to it’s page in Play Google:

It’s written by a programmer named Ivan Stoliarov. Given the price, I don’t expect a lot from apps that I install on my phone, and I didn’t from this one. I must say, over the past year or so I have been pleasantly surprised. Before I go into the details of this timing app specifically, let’s chat about timers in general for a bit.

My biggest concern when I hear that a new shooter has purchased their first time is that they will allow the use of the timer to become an excuse to become unsafe on the range. It’s such a temptation to “beat the clock” that draws become unsafe, fingers slide towards triggers before their weapon is up on target and safeties get disengaged way too early. A final plea . . . . PLEASE place safety first, solid weapons handling first, a safe draw first . . . . and then work on speed. Your priorities should ALWAYS BE – safe, accurate and then quick engagements. If you are unsafe, if you are inaccurate . . . . speed in meaningless.

In the timing world there are three primary implementations of recording time and shots fired – Comstock, Virginia and Par. The “IPSC Shot Timer” handles all three methods.


Comstock timing is used for IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation). A stage is configured, a course of fire is defined and the shooter steps into the box. When the timing tone sounds they engage the targets and the timer begins timing when the first shot is fired. And it records the time that elapses until the final shot. There is no concern for time or the number of shots fired. The stage is scored, deductions taken where appropriate and then this final time is divided by the time shown on the timer. A “time per shot” is calculated and a “Stage Factor” is assigned to the shooter. This is the essence of Comstock Scoring.

The IPSC home screen for Comstock looks like this:



While Comstock Scoring places no restrictions on the number of shots fired, Virginia does. The number of shots is fed into the timer a starting parameter. Again, the shooter steps into the box. When the timing tone starts they engage the targets – there are NO makeup shots. The final number of hits and the time elapsed between first and last shot determines the shooter’s stage score.

The IPSC home screen for Virginia looks like this:



A maximum stage time entered into the timer. There is no limit to the number of shots, just the max time. The shooter steps into the box, the timer sounds and they run the stage. Their elapsed time is recorded for the stage.

The IPSC home screen for Par looks like this:


The initial setup screen for the IPSC Timer is simple and easy to understand.



The Threshold sets the sensitivity of the time to the sound it is trying to detect. For dry fire, the bar is set far to the left. For an active range, it is set to the right. The setting you see here actually works well for me in both settings. I do most of my dry fire in the quiet of my office, yet I get few false reports when I am on the live range.

Random Start

Once you press the Start button you want things to be mixed up when the timer sounds its start tone. This setting allows you a wide range of time to pick from.

Minimum %

This is the percentage of sound level the Live Fire must be above the Dry Fire level to be detected. I have always had mine at 0% and it seems to work just fine.

Echo Delay

On a range, particularly where you can hear an echo, you may find that your timer records both the initial shot and its echo. The Echo Delay will allow you to mitigate this issue.


The Timer Selection allows you to choose which timing method you want to use – Comstock, Virginia or Par. Simple radio buttons make the choice.


Simply firing a shot while in the shot Calibration mode will set the initial value for the timer. You may have to adjust this a bit but my experience has been that it is a pretty solid setting.


A result table is available regardless of which timing mode you are using. This table can be saved on your phone or emailed to your mail box for long record keeping.


Simply press the start button, wait for the start tone and engage your stage. It’s as simple as that.

My only issue with the timer is handling it when I’m alone. I find I usually set it on a portable range table or a stool near my shooting position. That seems to work fine.

If you are looking for a beginning timer and you own an Android phone – you simply can not go wrong trying this app. Give it a “shot” (ok, that was too easy) and see what you think. Drop a note in the comments and let me know what your experience is.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Just the Basics - Bullets


Projectile: a body projected by external force and continuing in motion by its own inertia; especially: a missile for a weapon (as a firearm)

Bullet: a round or elongated missile (as of lead) to be fired from a firearm; broadly

Hardness: resistance of metal to indentation under a static load or to scratching

Brinell hardness test: use of a 10mm diameter hardened steel or carbide ball to determine the “hardness” of a metal

Frangible: readily or easily broken

As with any topic, the more you “drill down”, the more complicated it becomes. Still, there is a basic level of information that a person actually needs to understand a specific topic.

When you starting talking about “bullets”, especially it today’s remarkably uninformed world, it’s easy for things to go “off the rails” pretty quickly. I want to take some time to flesh out the basics of bullets so when you begin the discussion of ammunition selection, use of your weapon and how that affects your bullet selection – I want you to understand the “basics”.

While the subject matter of “bullets” is vast – I want to spend it some very focused areas:

What is a bullet? Sounds simple, but folks easily mix terms like “cartridge” and “bullet”.

What is its composition? Heck – it’s lead, right??? Not so fast there skippy.

Penetration. You are responsible for every round you fire – everything it penetrates. Bullet selection matters.

Basic Shapes. Bullets fit into three basic categories – Round Nose, Hollow Point and Wad Cutter. There are variations on each “theme”, but these are the starting point.

Bullet Selection. On the range or on the street – which bullet is “best”?

What is a bullet?

A bullet is a projectile. It enables the shooter to deliver “force” at a distance. Before gunpowder and the bow force was delivered “up close and personal” through the use of a stone, knife, spear, axe, sword. Of course, spears could be thrown, allowing the thrower some separation and a higher level of safety, but still – it was “personal”.

Humans looking for an advantage over prey or foe have continually looks for an advantage in weapons. One interesting innovation was the Atlatl.


A hand held throwing tool that effectively lengthened the throwers arm, increasing the moment of force and allowing the thrower to increase both his distance and killing force. Not sure why, but these are just cool to me!

A sling follows the same idea but uses smooth, rounded stones as the projectile. They too allowed the delivery of a killing force at a greater distance.

We progressed to the bow – a weapon used to this day with great effect and at a great distance.

Enter . . . . gun powder.

Which lead to hand cannons.

Which lead to hand guns . . . . and the weapons we are all familiar with today.

Through the use of a handgun, loaded with a cartridge, that actually contains the bullet – a modern day shooter can deliver this projectile over great distance with devastating results.

So, at its core, throughout a fairly distinct development history, a bullet is simply a projectile used to deliver force at a distance.

What is a bullet’s composition?

“Lead, of course” - is the answer that comes so easily. When I think of bullets and bullet casting I think of the scene from “The Patriot” that has Benjamin Martin hand casting a round-ball from the small lead toy soldiers that were his dead son’s toy comes. And yes, the vast majority of bullets on the market today are made, substantially, of lead. However, bullets are almost never simply soft lead, but rather an alloy of three different metals – lead, tin and antimony. While the recipe is infinitely variable – in general the mix ratio is “around” 93% Lead, 4% Antimony and 3% Tin. The use of an alloy affects the “hardness” of the bullet.

Bullet hardness can be measured by a number of different units of measure. Bullet manufacturers typically use the Brinell Scale. This is determined by the direct measurement of a dimple caused in the alloy when a 10mm diameter sphere made of either hardened steel or carbide is pressed into the alloy with a known force (dependent on the alloy) for a defined period of time. The dimple is then measured under a microscope, fed into a standard formula and the result is the “hardness” of the alloy. Pure lead has a BH or around 5. It is easily scratched with a thumb nail. Cast bullets with the alloy list above run a BH around 15-30 depending on your after-casting Oven/Quench process. The Brinell hardness of hardened copper – probably the most common plating for bullets is 12. Why is this number important?

Simply put, the softer the bullet, the more metal that is scraped off as the bullet travels down the barrel. This is known as “leading”. As the lands and groves grasp the bullet to impart their spin, they can peel off lead, the grooves can become “clogged” and your accuracy will become diminished. This is solved by a good cleaning with a lead solvent, but repeated leading over a prolonged period of time will damage a barrel.

“Harder” bullets mean less ( or no ) leading. So your bullet composition – especially if you move to casting your own bullets – is important.

Frangible Bullets: Bullets may also be made of “frangible” material – designed to shatter/break apart upon impact. These bullets are designed specifically to limit penetration. As soon as they meet true resistance, they break apart. Probably the most common use of this style of bullet is in “shoot houses” where the shooter needs to experience the sounds, smells and feel of a standard round being discharged – but where the danger due to wall penetration or ricochet needs to be reduced.

Solid Coppers: In some areas, concerns of “lead pollution” are so high – shooters are required to shoot “solids” only – typically solid copper bullets. You also find trends to reduce lead in shotgun shells with some states/hunting areas requiring steel shot rather than lead. Are these real dangers?? Honestly, I do not think so, but many are of the opposite opinion. Regardless, copper bullets and steel shot are here to stay.

Exotic Bullets: Bullets reflect the task at hand – whether target shooting, putting down an animal, killing a terrorist or stopping an armored vehicle. For the latter task, lead or copper bullets would have little effect. However, a 30mm bullet, from a GAU-8 Avenger made of depleted uranium would pass through the armor like a hot knife through soft butter. With a weight of .66 pounds, a Brinell Number of 750 and a velocity of approximately 3,000 fps – there is little in the way of armor that can withstand such a bullet.

There are any numbers of ways to build a bullet. It’s final construction and composition depends on its ultimate purpose.


Bullets are designed to do damage. To do this damage, they must penetrate the target. That said – you also do not want them to damage anything other than that specific target. If a bullet enters the target, damages it and then passes through the target – it is called “over penetration”. And, over penetration can cause a real problem if you are engaging a threat in your home, in a mall or on the street. Remember, YOU are responsible for every bullet that leaves your barrel.

Let’s group our concern into two general categories – “the range” and “the street”.

The Range: For the majority of range time – standard “ball” ammunition works just fine. These are usual Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose bullets – FMJ-RN. They are usually covered in a copper jacket, feed well through a semi-automatic pistol and make holes just fine.

The Shoot House: This same bullet though – the FMJ-RN – will probably NOT be allowed in a shoot house. It penetrates too well, deforms slowly and can easily ricochet of a wall or some other part of the support structure making them a dangerous choice. This environment is where the frangible bullet comes into play. It feed well, has the “touch and feel” of a standard round yet will easily disintegrate upon impact with the target (or the target trap) greatly reducing the possibility of a ricochet.

Steel Shoots: Steel shooting has become very popular over the past few years. There are some considerations here regarding the fragmentation of a FMJ-RN bullet that moves that DOWN the list of desired bullets and finds it replaced with a hollow-point bullet in its place. This is a good alternative to frangible bullets due simply to cost. Frangible ammo is pricy – hollow points are not. Steel plates are typically made of AR500 or harder steel and will simply pancake any bullet shot at it. However, this makes for a lot of “spray” as the bullet is destroyed. Standard targets account for this with a “down tilt” of about 20 degrees, insuring the spray goes into the ground. That said, I have still caught fragments from FMJ bullets during shoots. If possible, I’d encourage you to consider hollow points when shooting steel, I believe it is a much safer choice.

The Street: I cannot say this enough – YOU are responsible for every bullet that leaves your barrel. If you choose to carry a weapon for personal protection – you simply MUST take bullet penetration into consideration when selecting your carry ammunition.

Your bullet must be able to penetrate clothing and tissue. It must be able to create enough damage to change the attackers mind to a different course of action. Or, it must be able to kill the attacker. The bullet should, ideally, expend the entirety of its energy within the body cavity of your attacker and not over penetrate, exit their body and harm the individual behind them.

To that end, the most popular bullet today is the jacketed hollow point for your personal defensive needs. It feeds well in today’s semi-automatic pistols. It has good initial penetration, it expands quickly creating a larger wound channel, it decelerates rapidly due to this expansion depositing the vast majority of its energy within the body cavity and it has the lowest possibility of exiting the body and hurting people behind the attacker. There are an endless number of variations on the “hollow point” theme manufactured by a number of different companies. Do your research and then choose a round with a bullet you are satisfied with.

Basic Shapes

There are three primary shapes for a bullet – a Round Nose (RN), a Hollow Point (HP) and a Wad Cutter (WC). Then there are variations of these basic themes as well.


Bullets are defined by their Nose, Body and Base. Here you see a Round Nose – regardless of whether it is simply a lead cast bullet or if it has a Full Metal Jacket round it. The body is the diameter of the bore +.001 inch (typically) to enable the rifling to have its effect on the bullet as it travels down the barrel. Note that there is both a Plain Base – meaning it is the same diameter as the body. Or, there is a Beveled Base – where the edge of the base is beveled slightly allowing the bullet to be seated in the case easier. The Nose (or Point), the Body and the Base are common terms regardless of the shape of the bullet. I won’t take up the real estate to rehash these terms as I go through the different bullet shapes.

Round Nose bullets provide the greatest penetration and deform little unless they strike a surface significantly harder that they are. They are a poor choice for personal defense because they can easily pass through tissue.


A Flat Nose bullet is simply a variant of the Round Nose bullet with a bit of the Nose taken off. This small change significantly changes the energy transfer of the bullet as it passes through a body transferring much more energy to the body cavity. This, theoretically, increases the “stopping power” of the bullet. Still, it is a solid bullet and is still prone to over penetration.


A Truncated Cone removes the rounding seen in a Round Nose bullet, add a Flat point and has the same issues of over penetration that the Round Nose Bullet has. However, on the range it has a tendency to punch a nice clean hole rather that the tear that a Round Nose bullet does. This make it easier to score in competition.


A Wad Cutter is simply a lead plug. Its primary purpose is for competitive shooting insuring a crisp hole that make for much easier scoring. However, due to this shape, it is much better suited for use in a revolver. A cartridge loaded with a Wad Cutter would feed poorly – to say the least – in a semi-automatic pistol.


A Semi-Wad cutter bullet addresses the feeding issue. Again, its primary purpose is to insure a nice, clean hole in the target for scoring while still feeding reliable in today’s semi-automatic pistols.

UPDATE:  Heavy sigh . . . . seems I left our Hollow Point bullets. 

Hollow Point Composite

The Hollow Point bullet is cast with a cavity in the center of the Nose.  This cavity extends down into the Body of the bullet.  The idea is that as the bullet enters a body, the outer edges of the bullet are pealed outward which increases the effective diameter of the bullet.  This does a number of things – it slows the travel of the bullet through the body, it significantly expands the wound channel and it helps transfer energy from the bullet to the body.  These actions go a long way to reduce the probability of over penetration keeping the bullet within the body and protecting others around the attacker.

There are a number of new enhancements that have been made to the hollow point bullet including some that fill the “hollow” with a rubber or plastic material to assist with penetration and uniform expansion.  Take some time, review the alternatives and, again, choose a defensive round that works best for you.

When looking for a bullet for your intended task, these are typically what you will have to choose from.

Bullet Selection

For a new shooter – let’s not make it complicated.

General range work – I’d recommend a RN bullet.

Steel Shoot – I would urge you to move to a Hollow Point.

Competition – try a Semi-Wad Cutter.

And, for personal protection – a Jacketed Hollow Point – JHP.

When all is said and done – it is the bullet that has the final word. Make sure it’s the right one for the job . . . .

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ramblings . . . . Some things have been on my mind lately . . .


I try to hold personal thoughts and “ramblings” to a minimum on this blog. I mean it to be instructional/educational, not “preachy”. And yet, every once-in-a-while I feel the need to “ramble”.

Killing Americans: I watched the parts of the painful testimony yesterday by AG Holder when he was being questioned by Texas Rep Cruz. He seemed to be unable to say – in any definitive way – that an American citizen, who was NOT posing an IMMINENT threat to the nation, could NOT BE KILLED BY A DRONE STRIKE WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE. Really?? I understand that in times of terrorist attack – like 9/11 – Americans could certainly be killed. I understand the reasoning behind the shoot-down order given by President Bush that would have killed dozens of innocents. But I must say I do NOT understand the reluctance say that the President could NOT KILL an American that WAS NOT POSSING an imminent threat. We have gone badly off the tracks when you watch the chamber and not see the majority of house members outraged by Holder’s testimony.

Ammo: Lots of talk about the government hoarding, some admittedly by me. And, I suspect they stock piling, just because many on the left would simply find humor in running the well dry – whether there was a need for the ammunition or not. But I suspect the real culprit are gunnies just stocking up and those looking to take advantage of the shortage to purchase at retail and then gouge the crap out of folks who become “desperate”. I have no respect for this type of opportunist. My solution – “roll your own”. I’ll have some “Just the Basics” on bullet casting and reloading throughout this year.

Hardware Specs: In my real life I’m a computer jock. Been at it for 33 years now – all the way back to card decks and punch tape and “core” memory. Damn I’m getting old. Anyway, I’m installing a new server for a business and today I get a call from a pissed off administrator about how the new server I just installed doesn’t meet the specs needed for the new software. What the heck am I going to do about that?!?!?!?!? Heavy sigh. Calls, emails, research later . . . . the supplier of the new management system being installed failed to include on their specs the need for SAS drives. Their software doesn’t like SATA drives and the box needs to be “optimized” with SAS drives. Really?? And you call my customer FIRST and bitch at them rather than me?? And, surprise, surprise, they offer “optimized” servers themselves if that would help things along. I’m getting’ too old for this crap.

Education System: Our local school district now has a 20% drop out rate. TWENTY F’ING PERCENT?!?!?!?!? And, once again the state legislature “has to do something” and is “working on new legislation” to “fix” the problem. It can’t be fixed. The system is the problem with the system. Home schooling, charter schools, closely controlled religious schools are the answer. I vote we defund public education, allow all those tax dollars to return to the local tax payer so they can get a handle on the education system’s collapse. Not going to happen – I know . . . .

Organizations: 80% of the work will be done by 20% of the members – regardless of the organization – from churches to scouting. Get over it. Jump in and play, quit or shut up!

Kids: I love my kids. They give me hope for the future. Both have chosen well with their life-mates. They make strong couples. I love them all from the bottom of my heart.

Training: I admit the past few weeks the cold has kept me off the range. For all my promotion of training in cold weather – a foot+ of snow and temps in the single digits has seen me giving way to the comforts of dry fire in my office. Don’t feel particularly good about that., yet there it is. I’m really looking forward to cracking the freezing mark . . . .

Wives: What on earth would I do without the lovely Ms. B.??? Hunny, in case I have not told you enough lately, love you very much – thanks for putting up with yours truly. I know it can be a bitch. I love ya for it.

Well, enough whining. I think this took the edge off a bit – but then again the day is still relatively young.

Thanks to all who read my “Ramblings” and the blog. In case I have not told you folks enough, I appreciate it and I appreciate your comments as well.

Time to get back to work . . . .

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just the Basics – Your Boo Boo Kit


Boo-Boo: a usually trivial injury (as a bruise or scratch)

Awhile back I covered the “Holy crap I shot myself!!!” kit in a post entitled Survival – Your Blow Out Kit. It’s purpose is to give you a chance to survive a catastrophic wound a major artery or your chest. The whole idea of this kit is to prepare for something THAT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN. Still, never is a very long time . . . .

However, simple injuries – a cut, bruise, blister, sliver, tear in your skin – are common injuries for a person that works with tools, knives or in the case of shooters who frequent the range – just handling our firearms. It certainly isn’t uncommon for a shooter to have the web of their dominant hand torn by a handgun’s slide. Or to have a finger caught in an ejection port. Or to have a thumb sliced by a magazine during a reload.

On a broader scale – if you are a hiker, camper or just doing work around the home, small injuries happen every day. For me, my lovely wife expects blood to be drawn during each and every DIY project I work on. Sadly, I mimic “Tim the Tool Man” all too well. The good news – I have a Boo-Boo kit at hand. The bad news . . . . I “rotate stock” much too often. Heavy sigh.

So, what’s in it? Well, here is a look-see into my kit:



I’ve used a 5”x7” tri-fold pouch – this pouch actually – for over 10 years. Each column shows fits into the pouch pocket above it. So, left to right:

  • Band Aides – assorted sizes
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Blister Kit
  • Large Gauze Pad
  • Neosporin
  • Chap stick
  • Elastic Bandage Wrap
  • More assorted Band Aides
  • First Aid Tape
  • Advil
  • Assorted meds – trip dependent
  • Carbineer to hook the kit to a pack, range bag, (or the headrest of  my seat in my Jeep).

This is a pretty simple kit. Obviously I stock what I use most – Band Aides. It is the kit that rides in my Jeep, is transferred to the range bag, (along with the BOK) when I reach the range and my day pack every time I travel. Also note that I repackage everything into small Ziploc bags for some additional weather protection.

I encourage you to update the kit at least once a year – or more frequently if you have a fondness for self-mutilation.

There is certainly no reason for you to “pack your own” – there is any number available via Amazon. However, the advantage of your own package is that you can tailor it to your own needs.

And, to go along with your Boo-Boo Kit – take a First Aid course to learn how to best use it. The Red Cross is a great place to start – from the basics through a Wilderness First Aid course to teach you how to handle major injuries when you’re a long way from the nearest help.

Build a kit. Learn how to use it.

And carry it each and every day . . . .

Friday, March 1, 2013

Commentary - But Uncle Joe Said . . . .


Advice: recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct


It’s tempting to jump on the “let’s bash Joe” bandwagon. The fact that VP Joe Biden is one of the most ignorant, dishonest, uninformed . . . . this could go on for awhile . . . . libelous, shallow . . . . . oh, you get the point . . . . individuals that I have ever watched probably isn’t a surprise to folks that would typically read a gun blog. We have a tendency to “be on the same page” regarding politicians like Joe. So, I want to examine his “expert testimony” from the POV of something we have all done at one time or another . . . . listened to our own “expert” talk about things they truly were NOT expert on.

That said, there is still value in a short detour to point out some of the highlights of Uncle Joe’s statements. I’m not going to look for the video, it’s just not worth it. If you read this post well past March of 2013 searching for “biden, shotgun, protection” should put you in the ball park. To the details as I see them:

Shotgun as a home defensive weapon: I have no argument with this at all. I’ve posted my personal 870 configuration before. However, a 2-barrel carriage gun?? No, I’d pass on that. Regardless of the firearm, for home defense more rounds are better. The past 6-months or so have had a seeming increase in multiple bad-guy home invasion stories. Trying to take on two or more home intruders – who are more than likely armed – with a double barreled shotgun?? I’ll pass.

Brandishing your shotgun outside your home: FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T DO THIS!!!!! This advice is stupid beyond belief. First, in many states/counties/cities brandishing a weapon of any kind is a misdemeanor at a minimum and could easily slide into a felony in some cases. Cooper’s Rule Number 2 – “Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.” If you have your shotgun outside your home, facing an intruder – you better be able to convince a jury you were in fear for your life. And, should things go south, you better be able to follow through on your threat.

“Just fire a couple shots in the air – that’ll scare them away”: One more time – FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T DO THIS!!!! The discharge of a weapon is a serious event. Again, typically a crime ranging from misdemeanor to felony. Remember, you own each and every round fired. Hit someone with your “warning shot” – and things will not end well for you.

Finally – regarding Uncle Joe – “Just fire a couple rounds through the door!”: One final time – FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T DO THIS!!!! Rule 4 – always be sure of your target and what is in front of, and behind it. I’ll just ask a simple question regarding this “advice” . . . . what if it’s your kid?

It’s very clear that VP Biden has had little in the way of fire arms training – especially in the area of safe-handling skills. That he is the one tasked with generating ideas for gun regulation in the aftermath of Sandyhook . . . . clearly shows what kind of trouble we are in as a nation. Please, DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS MAN.

All this said, we all know an “Uncle Joe”. So let’s talk a bit about requesting information from an “expert” that you know . . . . and giving “expert” advice.

As an instructor, many times folks that take my classes view me as an “expert” in ALL THINGS weapons related. I’m not . . . . . not even close. And neither is anyone else for that matter. Does this mean you should never ask me for a hand – nope. But, you have the right to expect that I will be honest with you about what I do – and don’t – know. And . . . you should always take any advice from me – or anyone – with a grain of salt. Everyone offers advice/opinions based on their own personal experience.

When you look at the skill set involved in “weapons handling” it is vast – to say the very least. Knowledge of revolvers, semiautomatic pistols, rifles be they bolt action, lever action, single shot, semiautomatic, full automatic, small caliber, large bore . . . . can easily take a lifetime to learn. Take that into consideration. You, as a new shooter – or a new to the AR platform, or the AK platform or the safe action semiautomatic or the single action revolver or any one of the other available platforms and manufacturers simply do not need to know everything NOW – take your time and learn at your own pace.

Take the time to learn the nomenclature, the details of the type of action you are learning, its history, its advantages and disadvantages . . . . build your knowledge base so when you reach a point where you will benefit from the knowledge and experience of another shooter – you can ask good questions that can lead you down the path of learning, rather than the path of listening to a line of BS. Does that make sense?? You have the ability to learn on your own – you do not need to be told or shown – you can learn. Actual physical demonstration can then be used to enhance and expand your knowledge as opposed to being the sole source of it.

Trust your gut when asking advice. If you head is telling you “this is BS, this is BS, this is BS . . . . then it’s probably BS”. VP Biden’s advice was such obvious BS that even the most inexperience shooter naturally knows better than to just “shoot in the air” or just “shoot through the door”, his buffoonery easily on display.

Try things in moderation. Since I’ve been chatting with friends that cast their own bullets and reload their own ammunition about my beginning efforts in this area – I am getting lots of advice. Lots of advice. Lots of advice . . . . And I like that actually – I am a true data geek. That said, I love researching and gathering data on my own. And then correlating that with what other folks say/do/think. Through that I believe I am getting a good sense of what materials to use when I start casting, which reloading press and dies will work for learning the craft, what primers work best, which powders people like better (assuming you can find any in March 2013) and dozens and dozens of other bits and pieces of this art form that I am learning and will learn over the next couple of years. The next step, to setup the workshop and work with small batches first – something about “baby steps” comes to mind. I am a few weeks from my fist reloading efforts – say 50 rounds or so. Then I will tweak, adjust, ask questions – and do another 50 or so. Until I am satisfied with that caliber, using that bullet and that powder with that charge . . . . And then I’ll start again with another caliber.

This same process will work for you whether you are working of sight alignment, sight picture, grip, stance, clearing malfunctions, speed reloads, tactical reloads, moving to cover . . . . Take your time. Break it into chunks. Read your heart out. Take course work from multiple instructors. Watch professional development DVDs. Join on-line forums. Watch. Listen. Learn. And, ask informed questions from a solid foundation to build and expand your weapons craft.

Again – trust your gut. If something being taught feels profoundly unsafe – ask questions first and then choose whether to incorporate it into your skillset. Everything taught by every instructor should be able to be explained logically and clearly. From entering a room to moving to cover to changing magazines – it should have a clear and concise explanation for why the instructor teaches it that way. If he/she says something like “that’s just how I do it” or “THIS is the right way – trust me” . . . . then I would take that with a very large grain of salt.

Keeping on that point – if an instructor is offended by being challenged, you just have to ask why? If you’re being an ass – well that’s one thing. But, if you have thought about your question, ask it honestly and do your best to ask a specific question – and the instructor still gets pissy for you asking a question, that again would bring into question his/her level of knowledge and expertise. I actually had this happen to me a couple of courses back. The instructor offered – as fact – his opinion on an element of accurate pistol shooting. In my opinion he was – and still is for that matter – wrong. When pressed he finally got to the “I’ve had lots of training, I’ve shot a lot and I’ve been around lots of military types – I know what I’m talking about and you just have to trust me – I’m right”. And, I let it go. Of course, in all honesty, I am doing the same thing as he . . . . so there ya go. J Had I pushed harder – it would have offended him. He made himself clear and I can either accept or reject his opinion. And, so can you – of any instructor you study with.

One final item – responsibility. You are responsible for your skill set. You are responsible for your weapons handling skills. You are responsible for your specific rules of engagement. You are responsible for each and every round or ounce of shot that leaves the barrel of a weapon under your control. Not the “expert, not the “trainer”, not Uncle Joe.

You . . . . and ONLY you . . . . are responsible . . . .

Learn your craft, hone your skills, listen to your gut . . . .

You are much smarter than you think . . . .